A majority (82 per cent) of senior managers said they’re worried about their company’s ability to retain valued staff, with 34 per cent saying they’re very worried, according to a new survey by Robert Half Canada Inc.

Among this group, 41 per cent attributed their concern to salary reductions or planned salary freezes for the near future.

“The pandemic has caused organizations to shift into high gear and many employees have taken on heavier workloads,” said David King, Canadian senior district president at Robert Half, in a press release. “Although some companies are offering non-monetary perks, such as options for greater flexibility in the workday or access to important health and wellness resources, many have also been forced to reduce or freeze salaries. Because of this, employers have growing concerns about their ability to retain high-performing employees as they continue to weather the economic impact of COVID-19.”

Read: Employers using hiring, wage freezes to combat effects of coronavirus: survey

The survey also found more than half (56 per cent) of respondents said starting salaries for new hires have held steady since the pandemic began, while 19 per cent noted an increase in base compensation. In addition, 81 per cent of senior managers said they’re just as likely to negotiate salaries with new hires today than a year ago. In fact, 24 per cent of this group said they’re more open to discussing starting pay with candidates now compared to last year.

“Employers are putting a premium on professionals with the skills and expertise needed to support new business priorities resulting from the pandemic,” said King. “When it comes to negotiating job offers, not only do these candidates have an edge, but we’re finding employers are also more open to discussing compensation earlier in the hiring process. Now is a critical time to be aware of current salary trends to ensure you’re prepared to offer the competitive salaries needed to quickly secure top talent.”

Read: Canadian employers’ hiring pace remains modest, but Q4 improves on Q3: survey